In many ways, Racing Louisville’s timing could not have been more perfect.
When they were announced as the newest expansion team in the National Women’s Soccer League in October 2019, interest in women’s soccer was still booming after the World Cup, but demand for franchises hadn’t yet materialized.
Even with robust interest in expansion still a year or so away, moving into a small market like Louisville raised some eyebrows. It didn’t help that the franchise was awarded by the NWSL’s outgoing president, Amanda Duffy, a former employee of the Louisville ownership group. But, that ownership group had a highly successful men’s side — Louisville City in the USL Championship — and a brand new stadium and planned facilities that would surpass anything that was currently available in the NWSL so there was a lot that made sense.
Louisville got the franchise at a bargain basement price of less than $2 million, but almost immediately after they started play in 2021, interest in women’s soccer exploded. So did team valuations. By the end of 2022, the NWSL expansion fee had skyrocketed to an astounding $53 million as dozens of ownership groups competed for what became two available expansion slots.
While Louisville may have beaten the rush, the thing about getting in early is that you then have to keep up when bigger, wealthier competitors arrive. And arrive they have, as the newly announced Bay Area expansion joins the league with a backing of $125 million in total investment from global investment firm Sixth Street. Financing like this shows that NWSL teams are no longer pet projects or a form of charity for wealthy owners; they’re now seen as viable business investments for the first time.
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